Times Staff Writer

Carla Fracci will dance in the United States premiere of Franco Zeffirelli’s controversial staging of “Swan Lake” this summer when La Scala Ballet mounts its first North American tour.

The company has four confirmed stops in the United States and Canada--Atlanta, Ottawa, St. Louis and San Francisco--starting in June, with a possible engagement at the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa still under negotiation.

“It’s in the works,” said Stan Seiden, president of Nederlander Companies, West Coast, which books the Pacific Amphitheatre. “At this point, I’d say there’s a 50-50 chance that (the Costa Mesa date) will happen.”

Zeffirelli’s lavish and expensive production of “Swan Lake,” created for La Scala Ballet and first performed in Milan in 1985, is the first ballet venture for the director/designer known for his work in film, theater and opera.


Although La Scala’s former artistic director Rosella Hightower is credited with the choreography, the overall responsibility for this “Swan Lake” belongs to Zeffirelli, who directed the production, designed the scenery and drastically reconceived the story line and theme. Anna Anni designed the costumes, and Lorin Maazel adapted Tchaikovsky’s score.

Zeffirelli restructured the traditional four-act ballet into a prologue and two acts and introduced such unconventional props as a huge, glowing meteorite--used for the lake scenes. Among other major unorthodox elements in his staging, the Odette-Odile role traditionally danced by one person has been split between two ballerinas.

Fracci originated the role of Odile in Zeffirelli’s version and will dance the same role during the U.S. tour. She last appeared in Southern California in 1978 with American Ballet Theatre.

Zeffirelli’s Odette (originally danced by Alessandra Ferri) will be danced by La Scala principal dancer Oriella Dorella. Jean-Charles Gil, formerly with Ballet de Marseille and currently a member of San Francisco Ballet, will guest as Siegfried.


La Scala Ballet will make its first stop at the Atlanta Civic Center for seven performances beginning June 24. That will be followed by a four-performance run at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ont., starting July 3 and another seven-performance engagement beginning July 7 at the Muny Theater in St. Louis.

If the Pacific Amphitheatre stop falls through, the only West Coast appearance of the ballet will be at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, where a seven-performance run is tentatively scheduled to open on July 15.

A spokeswoman for Living Artists Management in New York, La Scala’s U.S. representative, said that scheduling difficulties are making the prospects of a Southern California engagement slim.

“We’re treating it as if it isn’t happening,” said Rosa Creanza. “The problem is that this is a very expensive production and we have to do about a week in each city or it’s too expensive for us.” Creanza said she did not have figures on the production’s cost.


She did say, however, that five 45-foot trailers are required to transport the two complete sets--one for indoor houses, the other for outdoor venues--that the company will bring with it.

She said the 120-member company, including 75 dancers and a technical crew of 35, will be backed in each city by a local orchestra. In addition, each facility will provide 60 nondancing “supers,” or extras, to fill out the stage action.

The production was greeted with scathing reviews upon its premiere last year in Milan. Anni was roundly criticized for stripping Odette and the swan maidens of their classical tutus and replacing them with long, flowing nightgown-like costumes. But the most controversial change was Zeffirelli’s decision to introduce Odile into virtually every scene, including the ending in which Siegfried is placed between Odile and Odette as if to choose.

Despite the significant changes, Hightower based her choreography on the classic 1895 Petipa-Ivanov version.